To be or not to be…

These famous words that everybody knows and cites have now another meaning for me and it’s not about Shakespeare.

 

I just finished reading the novel “In One Person” from John Irving.  

 
The novel starts in the late 1950’s in New England. It’s about young Billy, in school, having trouble finding who he is. He lives with his mother, a weaker woman that copes with his education relying on the help of her family, especially her father.  They don’t talk much about Billy’s father and he only knows some war stories and of what a hero he must have been. His grandfather loves to play theater and he mostly disguises himself to play women roles. His mother starts a relationship with the literature teacher in Billy’s school who loves Shakespeare. Richard, this new man in her life, offers her and Billy some stability and hold. He is also in charge of the theatre workshop in school. Later on Billy will act in some small papers in school plays. Thanks to him, Billy decides to start reading books where he can find some answers to his adolescent questions. He wants to know more about real love and later on about “having crushes on the wrong people”. 
In the library he meets the librarian Ms. Frost, a middle aged lady, who understands his troubled mind and suggests him some classical readings starting with Jane Austen. He reads many books until he gets to his main topic “crushes on the wrong people”.  Billy feels especially attracted to her and they start meeting after the library’s opening hours.  Billy isn’t sure about his sexuality. He hopes to find answers first in literature, then in Ms. Frost and also in his schoolfriend Elaine. 
Leaving school and knowing that he likes boys and girls as well, he decides to continue his studies and hopes to find inspiration for his writing in Europe where everything should be more open. He lives for a while with an opera student, an attractive woman,  in Vienna and he also meets another male American writer like himself.
He stays in contact with his school friend Elaine who had also had a crush on the wrong person.  They meet again twenty or more years later and talk about their lives, common friends and crushes.  At the end of the novel they have both lost some gay friends to AIDS and even visit some of them together.  Billy is happy to have survived the devastation in the 80‘s and would have been even happier, if homosexuality and bi-sexuality wouldn’t have been tabu.

I had never really lost thoughts about anyone being bi-sexual and I think that most of us have heard that it is weird and that it is just like being gay. Following Billy’s steps you realize that it is not that way. Bisexuals simply like to be intimate with both sexes. They may have a preference for one or the other and they don’t have to look especially different. Of course, being bisexual doesn’t mean that they are automatically promiscuous, this is a separate category that may apply to all sexual preferences and genders.  

 

The novel confronts us with this controversial topic starting in the ‘50s and going to the 21st century.  It’s a topic that is rarely discussed openly and it is not easy to imagine someone just talking about it as if they were talking about their favorite ice-cream.  It’s not “to be or not to be”, bisexuals simply like both are both.  Being bi-sexual, gay or lesbian is definitely not being weird.

 

Just to finish, when I was young, it was impossible to mention the word “homo” or “gay” in a “decent” conversation and the term “lesbian” wouldn’t be in a dictionary (exaggerating…). Nowadays you can talk quite open about it and I’m very glad for everybody who can simply live the way they prefer. I’m also proud of having friends with all preferences. Yes, with all. Oh, and don’t start guessing 😉
Nevertheless, I was quite shocked to know that there are still parents in my age or even younger who cannot accept to have a child who isn’t “straight” or as they say “normal”. They prefer to have them out of their homes and out of their lives, if they don’t “change”.  I thought that in Germany, this wouldn’t happen anymore, but now I really wonder… 
I still hope that we can contribute a little with our thoughts and actions to help others accept their children and, of course, friends and everybody the way they are.  

The question is not: to be or not to be “different”, but to treat everybody with respect.
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6 thoughts on “To be or not to be…

  1. Dunno why, but I always have trouble posting my comments on your blog's page I don't want people to “tolerate” me, nor do I expect them to “accept” me. All I aspire to is for people to show the same level of RESPECT they get from me

    Also, as a society, we have created SO many labels to describe others… it'll be great when we all understand that it's a matter of simply being in love with another human being, regardless their gender.
    Nice piece, Tona!!
    “Commented by my friend Cristina via Facebook”

    Like

  2. Hi 🙂 I wanted to react to your first post on this blog, the one about endless love, which was very interesting and very inspiring to me but I messed up posting it and I didn't want to re write the whole novel ! hahaha
    Anyway, I'll try to post this correctly !

    Thanks for this post. You know I live in France and I have many friends with different sexualities, the most of them under 25 years old and being so close to them and see how people judge them everyday is quite hard.

    Of course we're not in the 50's anymore, but as the fact of accepting it has grown, the fact of rejecting it more openly has grown to. And of course we're not talking about death penalty that exists in some countries but how people react in everyday life. How people fight for it or fight against it with the same energy.

    And even if for some this is a real issue of identity, to define themselves, I have many friends who just don't care about it. And I think the same way. I mean, you don't get up in the morning choosing your sexuality of the day like a t shirt or jeans. We don't care if the personn you have fallen in love with is a girl, a boy or anyone else.

    I just think that you wait for the right personn and the gender should not be a matter of hatred or fear. Sexuality is like exploring an unknown country. You discover every day what you like, what you don't like, why you don't like, who you feel comfortable with to share all this.

    And we are a lot of young people thinking this way. But the problem is : Who in our families would accept it? Who in the society would look at us like anyone else and not like f***ing aliens ?

    The thing is, that for some, a different sexuality is ok, but out of their houses. Out of their little wolrd.

    And I think the book is really good showing the feelings of this young boy, telling us : yes, this little boy is confused, he is a human being. He could be your son, your cousin, your friend. And he deserves respect as well.

    So thanks for sharing a post about this subject, and thanks to give your opinion about it.

    Continue wrinting I enjoy reading your posts 🙂

    Besos !

    Like

  3. Dear Morgane H.
    I'm very happy to read that you have read my blog and that you find this last post so interesting. Thank you for sharing your views, and yours and your friends' real life experiences regarding this topic. I'm very glad to “hear” young voices from all over the world. I hope to “hear” more form you soon. All the best! Besos!

    Like

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